Published in Spring 2023

Digital and soft skills gaps have proven to be a persistent challenge for organizations worldwide, with the rapid pace of technological and societal change creating an ever-increasing need for continuous learning, training and upskilling. For this reason, role-based skills training has become a popular option for organizations that aim to close skills gaps and remain competitive in the global business landscape. A role-based training approach provides a tailored learning experience to employees, delivering hyper-relevant information based on their roles, responsibilities and job functions.

Role-based skills training can be delivered in a variety of ways, including through in-person, instructor-led training (ILT) sessions or virtual instructor-led training (VILT) conducted at a distance. Organizations that choose to deliver role-based training using either of these approaches have the option to maximize their impact by also utilizing custom eLearning. Custom eLearning provides a convenient, flexible and complementary method of reinforcing concepts and skills learned during live, role-based training sessions. It can give learners the ability to supplement their live training sessions with personalized eLearning modules they can both complete at their own pace and reference as needed.

Skills Gaps: A Costly Concern

It’s common knowledge that in today’s fast-paced business environment, companies need to continuously adapt and evolve their skills and knowledge to stay competitive. Unfortunately, global skills gaps continue to persist across industries, inhibiting productivity and threatening growth. In fact, 14 of the G20 countries could miss out on $11.5 trillion cumulative GDP growth due to skills gaps, and skills gaps are projected to cost U.S. businesses $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues by 2030. These skills gaps can be broken down broadly into two categories, both of which cost businesses tremendously: digital skills gaps and soft skills gaps.

Digital Skills Gaps: An Obvious Problem

Digital skills gaps refer to the gaps between the demand for and supply of workers with the digital skills sought by employers. In the recent past, digital skills have become much more niche and nuanced due to technology’s exponential evolution, with developments in augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things requiring workers to adapt and upskill every year to keep pace. According to Gartner, the number of skills required for a single job increases 10% annually.

As we continue through the age of Industry 4.0, these digital skills gaps remain alarmingly widespread (and far too often unaddressed). Three in four workers today don’t have the digital skills needed by businesses, yet only 28% of businesses are participating in training programs. When it comes to the future of work, the problem only seems to increase. A study by Dell Technologies predicted that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist, meaning that businesses that aren’t actively participating in continuous training and upskilling programs will be unprepared for a rapidly approaching future.

Soft Skills Gaps: An Overlooked Threat

Digital skills are not the only type of skills that workers need to train and upskill to be prepared for the future of work. Soft skills, which refer to interpersonal and behavioral skills, are also needed for workers to thrive in their roles. These skills include time management, creativity, teamwork, empathy, emotional intelligence and problem-solving.

While many organizations often overlook soft skills when they develop and deliver training programs, research from the Stanford Research Center, the Carnegie Foundation, and Harvard University shows just how important soft skills are for achieving individual and organizational goals. This research found that 85% of job success comes from well-developed soft skills, and just 15% of job success is a result of technical skills. In line with this, 89% of recruiters have stated that when a hire doesn’t work out, the cause is usually a lack of soft skills.

Additional research reveals that leading soft skills are requested four times more than leading hard skills in employer job postings, further emphasizing the importance of these competencies. Unfortunately, almost 75% of employers say they have a hard time finding candidates with the soft skills their companies need. In an effort to bridge both digital and soft skills gaps in the most effective and results-oriented manner possible, many companies have turned to role-based skills training as a solution.

Role-based Skills Training to Bridge Skills Gaps

Role-based skills training refers to training programs that are designed to teach specific skills and knowledge to employees based on their unique roles or job functions. Role-based skills training is not only focused on theoretical learning but also the practical application of learned skills. These types of training programs are aimed at improving the performance of both individual employees and teams. Role-based skills training programs frequently include a combination of technical skills and soft skills training, since both are critical components of on-the-job success.

Role-based training helps employees stay current with new technologies, industry trends and best practices, which in turn helps organizations stay competitive. This approach focuses on results and maximizes the value of an organization’s learning and development (L&D) investment, ensuring that workers have the skills, tools, knowledge and resources they need to not only perform their job but perform it in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Oftentimes, organizations deliver role-based training directly to employees through in-person ILT sessions or through live, VILT sessions. Each of these methods has its own advantages and drawbacks, but what these two training methods do have in common is that their effects can be complemented and amplified by the development and delivery of customized eLearning.

Advantages of eLearning

The use of eLearning has skyrocketed over the past two decades, with corporations increasing their use of eLearning by 900% in the last 16 years, and for good reason. eLearning itself has proven to be an efficient, cost-effective way to provide training and upskilling opportunities to workers. In fact, every dollar invested in online training results in a $30 increase in productivity, and eLearning typically takes 40% to 60% less employee time than learning in a traditional classroom setting.

eLearning provides flexibility and convenience, allowing learners to take courses at their own pace, from wherever they are. Given the shift to remote and hybrid work, eLearning is an exceptionally attractive option for companies that want to deliver training to dispersed team members.

Custom eLearning Development

Much of the eLearning that is readily available to organizations includes pre-developed, “off-the-shelf” courses and content. While these off-the-shelf eLearning offerings are typically sufficient for providing basic or rudimentary digital or soft skills training, they do not create the enhanced impact that customized eLearning does.

Custom eLearning takes the value of eLearning one step further by taking into account the specific learning goals, needs and business objectives of an organization. This directly parallels instructor-led, role-based training by providing personalized learning centered on workers’ individual roles, responsibilities and functions. Custom eLearning allows workers to practice skills and test their knowledge after instructor-led training sessions have been delivered, giving them additional opportunities to perfect their skills.

Tailored quizzes and assessments can help workers learn auxiliary role-specific skills and ensure the efficacy of an organization’s role-based training efforts. With customized eLearning delivered in conjunction with role-based skills training sessions, organizations can inspire and encourage continuous learning that directly relates to employees’ daily work, improves performance and promotes adaptability.

In Conclusion

Both digital and soft skills gaps continue to present problems for businesses around the world. These skills gaps are projected to cost the global economy trillions of dollars if left unchecked. With technology advancing at an exponential rate and societal shifts causing unprecedented change, organizations that want to innovate and thrive in the future must prioritize their training and upskilling efforts. Role-based skills training sessions are a great way for companies to help employees stay current with the latest technologies, industry trends and best practices.

Organizations that truly want to maximize the impact of (and return on) their L&D investments should amplify their role-based skills training with job-specific custom eLearning. Customized eLearning enhances role-based training offerings by giving workers convenient and flexible modules that can be accessed at any time, from anywhere, all focused on employees’ individual job functions, responsibilities and expectations.